Saturday 10th October, 2020, was this year’s World Mental Health Day. But most of us in Nigeria didn’t know about it because the #ENDSARS protest has been overshadowing a lot of important news and information for some time now. Hence, some lectures and talks given by psychologists that we would have enjoyed on that day got swallowed up in the turbulence. It would have been good if we had participated in the mental health awareness campaign because a lot of people, including Nigerians, are passing through a lot right now. From what I’ve learnt, the number of traumatised and depressed persons is on the increase and the worst thing is that many of them don’t even know they have those problems.
Well, I was fortunate to have a one-on-one chat with a friend, who is an advocate of mental health. He is not a psychologist but he has experienced depression and hence believes everyone should know his status. While interacting with him, he pointed out that the major cause of suicide these days is depression. He said that it is possible that people have been depressed in Nigeria during the time of great grandfathers but because of the communal life they lived then, it was easy to manage depression. But right now that people “mind their business” and don’t bother checking on others, depression is becoming more and more devastating. Hence, there is a need to revisit our past and bring back some of our good traditions.
I have always known that African culture and tradition encourage communal life. I have known Africans to be their brothers’ keepers. I have known that in Africa, “Igwebike” is the watchword. But all these are changing. People are dropping the cultures that gave us life and are picking up alien ones. Some people called it “wokeness”. Others called it “pursuit of happiness”. But I see it as the road to destruction.
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One of these ills that are eating deep into our system is the “cut-them-off” ideology. You usually see this among people that believe they have started making headway in life. Hence, when they feel that someone that is lower than them is opposing or disturbing them, they “cut off” the person. Note that they are ready to even “cut off” their mothers if it comes to that. This ideology discourages tolerance among people. But without that virtue, a lot of people will live in isolation.
The second problem that needs to be mentioned here is the “think-of-yourself-only” attitude. I know it is advisable to think of your interest before that of anybody else, but I also know that if everyone does that, a lot of us will not find helpers. I am not saying that people should be selfless to the point losing themselves, but if all of us start thinking only of what will benefit us without thinking of its effect on others, I believe a lot of things will go wrong. So as we pursue happiness, and place ourselves first, let us also think of others. Some people made sacrifices for us to be where we are today; we should also be ready to make sacrifices in return.
The last thing that is worth mentioning here is the “you-don’t-owe-anybody-anything” mentality. This attitude, unknown to many, encourages ingratitude; a vice that easily pulls people down. I was actually appalled when I saw a number of young Nigerian graduates, who just started earning their income, saying they don’t owe their parents anything. Some went as far as saying that their parents only did their duties by sending them to school. I don’t know if these people were trying to emulate Western culture but I think they need to find out more about college loans before they tell their parents anything that will break their hearts.
I know people do certain things in the name of civilisation but I don’t think they really know the impact those practices will have in their lives and in that of those around them. People are losing it everyday because there is nobody to notice changes in their moods. As we can see, the cases of suicide are on the increase in this country and it owes a lot to the adoption of alien cultures. No one is trying to discourage you from being civilised but if what you are practising doesn’t advocate togetherness, gratitude and tolerance, trust me, it is destructive.